De Stormvogels

Duke Jacob and the portal


In the centre of Kuldiga town in Latvia, there is a portal with Duke Jacob Kettler stuck inside. On my stay in Latvia in 2013, we went to Kuldiga to attend an annual festival, and it is where I first met the Duke and learned his fascinating story.

Born in 1610 in Kuldiga ( then Goldingen), Jacob was the godson of King James I of England. He studied in Rostock and Leipzig University, traveled Europe and learned many useful skills. In 1642 he became Duke of Courland, and his knowledge and willpower helped him build ‘Curonian Empire’. Manufacturing and international trade bloomed under his rule, and he also started shipbuilding. In 1651 he sent a fleet to build Fort Jacob on the Gambia river in West Africa. In 1654 he conquered Tobago. The colony on Tobago was named Neu Kurland (New Courland) and consisted of 80 families and soldiers.

In the beginning of the 17th century, Australia was discovered and claimed by the Dutch. Duke Jacob decided to colonize Australia, and got a blessing from the Pope Innocent X. Unfortunately the Pope soon died and the new Pope didn’t support that plan.

During the Northern Wars, Duke and his family were taken prisoners by Swedes in 1658. In the next two years his colonies were attacked and taken away, and his fleet destroyed, but after the War ended, Duke Jacob rebuilt the fleet and retook Tobago from the Dutch. He died in 1682, and was remembered as a just ruler who knew Latvian language.

This is the castle guard’s house that was built in 1735 using the rocks from the Duke’s castle that was destroyed by Swedes in 1702.



Beautiful brick bridge across the river Venta was designed by an engineer Friedrich Stapprany and built in 1874.  It is one of the longest and widest brick bridges in Europe, enough for two carriages going in opposite directions to pass each other. A beautiful piece of architecture surrounded by gorgeous scenery.


View from the bridge.


Ventas Rumba, a 2m high and 240-270m long rapid is on the other side of the bridge. I am standing in the place where the Duke’s castle used to be. In his reign, local fishermen placed baskets over the waterfall to catch the migrating vimba fish.  Annual Flying Fish festival takes place in April to celebrate the ancient fishing practice.

PS I didn’t cross the river.


River Aleksupite runs through the old town winding between the walls of the old buildings. There was a special lottery going on at the festival. You could buy a plastic ball with a number, and together with the other participants, toss it in the river. There is a very slim chance that your number wins – only five balls reached the finish line.


After the lottery is over, the famous Aleksupite race starts…


… followed by the carnival. This Bacchus caught my eye 🙂


I was also amused by the Duke and his escort.


Piratenkoor De Stormvogels from The Netherlands gave a fantastic performance.


Some viking stuff for sale.


Visitors and locals enjoying the day.


Viking food cooked in the open air.


I guess you have noticed how tidy is the town during the festival that attracted thousands of visitors. This reflects the local mentality – there are special programs that teach people not to litter, and no one in their right mind would do that. Only a drunk person might drop a cigarette butt, occasionally, because I did see a few cigarette butts on the pavement during my stay. A few. But I have seen many people of all ages and genders who put their tiny ticket in the bin after leaving public transport. I don’t want to tell that all the people of  Latvia are perfect, though 🙂 There are many very aggressive and quite impolite drivers there, but if you decide to visit, you will be very impressed as to the tidiness of this quite poor country, and the resourcefulness and optimism of the people.

Two more blog posts about Latvia to follow.

inesemjphotography Have a wonderful weekend!

Let me decide for myself

Very often I have  to decide what image is the one I want to keep.  I don’t need two or three, which would make the things much easier. Only one. “He who has a choice, has a torment”.

It helps when I know exactly what the image will be used for.  Below, there are two photographs of the same swan – the cropped one is a header image. That is easy.



Sometimes I have two things that I have to choose between, and neither of them is good. It is like you have to choose what house you have to move in, and these are your only options:



Choosing between two imperfect things is a difficult choice most of voters have to deal with…

In modern society, The Media tells people how to live and what to think. Many of those who imagine themselves free, independent and having their own opinion, are in fact tied up with the choices someone else has made for them. If it is not enough, they are also helpfully provided with the motivations for these choices. You just have no choice but accept ‘your’ choice, so to speak, remaining disillusioned and unaware. It is not the way choice operates. At the very least, people have to use their own knowledge, experience and intuition, and exercise judging, selecting and rejecting before they call the choice ‘theirs’. No cheating.

Recently I came across a quote. American comedian Sandra Bernhard said the following: ‘I am very much a humanist. I am very much pro-choice. I am very much politically correct”.

I hope she was joking.

Power of choice is one of the most important principles in our life. Freedom of choice is one of the most important values in society. Pro-choice (the same as pro-life, if you wondered) labels are just what they are – the labels, and one of their purposes is to divide society. Why would you want anything that divides your nation?

I am not finished with Sandra Bernhard yet.

I beg you to never be ‘politically correct’! Please, if you are not naturally kind, caring, cultured; if you are tactless, if you often have a cause to regret your words and justify yourself – don’t be discouraged, and don’t replace all of this with the ‘politically-correct’ label on your sleeve. Make your own choice to become a genuinely better person, not a properly labeled hypocrite.

And again, if you wondered, I am too far from being that ideal person, but I rather die trying to become one, than humiliate another fellow human by being ‘politically correct’ towards him or her.

“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” 
Warren W Wiersbe

Please, don’t demand ‘political correctness’. You are manipulated without knowing that. Stick to the good people, earn respect, have your goals to focus on. People might try to offend you now and then, but that happens with all of us, no exceptions, because it is what some people choose to do.

Here is a quote to those who are difficult to deal with.

“He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”
Brigham Young

Each of us has been that fool at least once 😉

And the third quote is

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Marcus Aurelius

These three quotes mean that my blogging friend Sarah at  Sarah Potter Writes has nominated me for 3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge 🙂 Thank you so much, Sarah! Hope you don’t mind that I wrote only one blog post instead of three.

The rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post one fresh quotation on three consecutive days.
  3. On each of the three days, nominate three folk who have not yet taken part to continue the challenge.

Sarah Potter is a fantasy and science fiction author – and much much more. Please, visit and follow Sarah’s blog.

There are my nominees. Don’t feel obliged 🙂

Hope you greet these bloggers like the pirates from De Stormvogels, Holland, greeted me 🙂

de stormvogels

Have a wonderful weekend!